Can Sunscreens Prevent Skin Tanning?


Those remotely into skincare may also agree that someone at some point would have reminded you to apply sunscreen. You may or may not have found that advice crucial but do you ever wonder why people put so much emphasis on using sunscreens? In this blog, we’ll help you understand if sunscreens can prevent skin tanning and the importance of applying them.

What are Sunscreens?

Sunscreens help block or reflect the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays to prevent skin damage. You may have noticed that all sunscreens come with an SPF mentioned on the label.

If you are new to the world and the word SPF, we’ll break it down for you.

SPF means Sun Protection Factor which indicates how well the product absorbs the UV rays. Sunscreens have different SPF numbers such as SPF 15, 20, 30, 50 etc. Choose a sunscreen ideal for your skin type, weather and the time spent under the sun. However, you need to remember that sunscreens are a must for everyone regardless of going out or not. Even if you are at home, you need to apply sunscreen.

How to Choose the Ideal SPF?

There isn’t any particular SPF that may work for everyone. It depends on the level of exposure to sun rays. For regular days a lower SPF may work fine, whereas, for direct exposure, you may need a higher SPF. Those with immune disorders, albinism or skin cancer may also require a sunscreen with high SPF. You can consult a dermatologist to suggest the exact SPF suitable for your skin.

How Does Sunscreen Work?

There are two types of sunscreens – chemical and physical sunscreens.

Physical Sunscreens

These set up on your skin like a film and physically scatter and reflect the harmful UV rays to ensure that they do not enter your skin.

Chemical Sunscreens

These sunscreens absorb the UV rays and change them before they can start harming your body.

More than anything else, it is vital to look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen. In other words, one that protects from both types of UV rays – UVA and UVB. UVA rays have longer wavelengths and may cause skin cancer and burns. UVB rays have shorter wavelengths and can lead to age spots, wrinkles and burns.

Some activities may require you to wear a water-resistant sunscreen with a high SPF, such as SPF 50 or 100, that you need to reapply at regular intervals. These sunscreens protect as well as ensure that the product stays on your skin. It includes swimming, playing sports or other activities that make you sweat profusely.

What Makes Sunscreens Important?

Exposure to sun rays makes your skin inflamed, and the skin reacts to sunburn by tanning. Continued exposure leads to an increase in the severity of sunburn. Using sunscreen protects your skin from direct UV exposure. Be it outdoor activities or day to day exposure such as driving, walking to your office and even playing with your kids in a park. Even the most negligible exposure that you may hardly care about can add up over time. Therefore, without fail, wear sunscreen daily.

Does Using Sunscreens Prevent Skin Tanning?

Sunscreens are filters, but even they cannot offer 100% protection. You will tan to some extent. Applying it will surely decrease the levels of tanning, but there’s no way to stop it. You may feel like it’s okay to skip using sunscreen. However, if you care for your skin, this thought shouldn’t ever cross your mind.

Long-term exposure to harmful sun rays can cause photoaging and skin cancer. Hence, apply sunscreen every day generously on your skin. Regardless of the SPF in your sunscreen, you need to reapply it every two hours. As per Skin Cancer Foundation (1), wearing sunscreen with an SPF 15 may reduce melanoma skin cancers’ risk by 50% and non-melanomas by 40%.

Summing Up

Your family, friends or anyone that kept asking you to apply sunscreen was indeed giving you the right advice. It is indeed true that sunscreens prevent skin tanning, but that’s not the only thing they do. There are far more vital aspects that they take care of, such as protecting your skin from skin cancer, ageing and burns.

Apart from sunscreens, opt for other preventive measures like wearing hats, sunglasses, umbrellas and protective clothing. Avoid stepping out from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm as the sunlight is at its peak during this time. Talk to a dermatologist for any concerns, the right products and any other queries related to sunscreens.


  1. Does sunscreen make skin appear darker?

No, sunscreen doesn’t make your skin appear darker.

  1. Is it okay to skip moisturiser and use sunscreen?

It would depend on your skin type. If you do have oily skin, you can get away by just applying your sunscreen. However, if you have dry skin, it would be best not to skip your moisturiser.

  1. What should you use first, sunscreen or moisturiser?

Sunscreen should always be the last step of your skincare routine. 

  1. Can coconut oil be used instead of sunscreen?

No, coconut oil should not be used instead of sunscreen.



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Chaitali Nayak

A writer and a skincare fanatic, Chaitali believes that words and kindness can transform the world. She has a master’s degree in Advertising & Public Relations and has worked for various advertising agencies and digital marketing firms. With the help of expert dermatologists at CureSkin, she works towards creating content that helps eliminate misinformation related to skincare. The aim is to educate yet bring something exciting and new every time for the readers. When not busy writing, you can find her talking to her plants, eating, drawing or watching movies.